Management software company Niku has produced an open-source version of its Workbench project scheduler for Windows.

The renamed Open Workbench will be available from next week as a free application with downloadable source code available on the popular on SourceForge.net. In so doing, the company becomes the second major enterprise ISV to offer open-source software for Windows rather than for Linux. Last month, Computer Associates announced that is was making Ingres, its database management system, open source.

While Niku is pitching the application as an alternative to Microsoft Project, one industry analyst said that the Microsoft application is project scheduling for the average user while Open Workbench is for a highly trained group of professional project managers. "It is true that Microsoft Project 2003 is targeting the enterprise space but from bottom up. While Workbench is heavy duty, more for the elite project mangers," said Melinda Ballou senior research analyst at Meta Group.

Open Workbench will be administered for the open source community by Niku at two separate sites. For the end-user community, www.openworkbench.org has been set up for people to register and ask questions. The second site is targeted at the developer community and will become an Open Workbench project at SourceForge.

Developers will be able to contribute enhancements under the Mozilla license, said David Hurwitz, vice president of marketing and strategy at Niku. "We chose Mozilla over Gnu because it offers the most flexibility for developers to contribute enhancements or extensions back into the community for free or to sell them," said Hurwitz.

Ballou said that creating an open-source version of an application is an alternate route for companies that need to support their existing legacy customer base for a product that no longer generates a great deal of revenue.